Cooperation is a critical skill for success that requires communication, compassion, and respect.
Even a young child three-and-a-half to four years old begins to cooperate. By the age of five or six, they start to understand the true value of cooperation in accomplishing tasks, and it progresses from there.
Below are ten ways you can help nurture cooperation in children and help them grow into productive adults:
1. Listen fully
Open your heart, eyes, and ears so you can truly listen to how children think and feel about any given situation. The only way you can learn how to teach a child something new is to look for and listen to what they already know and how they feel with empathy. This will show respect for them, and they will experience being heard and known.
2. Model sharing
Let children see you sharing a skill, an item, your time, or your love. It is also okay to explain to children that you are sharing, and cooperating with others and why.
3. Play games
Playing games with children teaches cooperation if you pick the right games such as jumping rope, building a puzzle, playing doubles tennis, or a three-legged race. Be sure to play some games for real and demonstrate good sportsmanship. This way they will learn that in life there will be times when they win, and times when they will lose, but in all cases, they can be gracious winners and losers.
4. Encourage teamwork
Set up situations that will require teamwork; whether that is team sports, team chores, or team planning. They situations should include activities where respectful communication and cooperation are necessary to get the job done.
5. Role reversal
Let children lead the way. Let them plan activities for the day, or dinner for the week, or an entire family vacation, depending upon their age and understanding of budgets and guidelines. Children are never too young to begin learning personal leadership and responsibility.
6. Practice praise
Catch a child being cooperative and praise them for it. Children love pleasing grownups and acknowledgement. They will be more likely to repeat positive behaviors if they are praised than stop negative behaviors for being punished. Either way they get attention, so why not encourage positive attention. When you see a child being cooperative with a peer, never fail tell them "Good job!"
7. Collaborative solutions
Let children come up with solutions for problems via your guidance and supervision. Try to allow children to work out problems with each other on their own before you intervene. If you do have to intervene, do so by asking questions rather than giving answers and always encourage respect.
8. Allow choices
Let children make choices that are age appropriate. A two year-old can pick between two things; a ten year-old can help design household chores; and a teenager can certainly pick their own clothing. Allowing children to make their own choices in collaboration with those around them teaches them teamwork, cooperation, and responsibility.
9. The more the merrier
Make sure to allow plenty of opportunities for children to play and be together. Being with peers their own age will help teach cooperation because they see themselves as equals with the other children. This also allows you teachable moments, but remember to practice praise and not intervene unless necessary.
10. Give to a cause
Spending time or money on an important cause can teach children cooperation because it teaches them that they are not alone in the world. It teaches them that other people need help, and with the cooperation of many, much can be done.
Award winning author, Debra J. Slover's leadership expertise stems from 18 years directing a state youth services program, experience organizing 20 state and national conferences, and running her own consulting firm for over six years. Her website ishttp://www.leadershipgardenlegacy.com